Five Digital Leaders Reflect on Digital Today and Tomorrow

The digital advertising industry is maturing. How would you describe the state of advertising today? What does this mean for its future?

Advertising Is: Offering value
Twenty years ago, everything was magical and new. Ads didn’t feel intrusive. Now that world is upside down. People can easily avoid ads, and interactive ads haven’t gentrified. As an industry, we have to remember that we are talking to an intelligent and active audience. They will engage, but we have to offer them something of value.
Edu Pou
Chief Creative Officer, The Barbarian Group

Advertising Is: Shifting from disruption to discovery
Advertising is going through a fundamental shift from disruption to discovery. Disrupting people’s viewing habits is much more difficult today. People have infinite choice, and they are looking for relevance and reward. To be relevant, advertising needs to create value―whether it’s a story that makes you cry, content that helps you paint a fence, or something saves you $5 on gas. There’s a radical shift happening in the world of advertising from the theory of personalization to the practice of it. Advertising needs to manifest the best qualities of the brand, whether that’s through an app, technology, or a service that’s relevant to people.
Mark D’Arcy
Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Facebook Creative Shop

Advertising Is: Creating meaningful experiences
The state of advertising today is: anything is possible. We’re becoming more sophisticated with technology. We’ve moved away from the bells-and-whistles stage to a more minimalist state where technology takes a back seat and less is more. Rather than using all the tools we’re inundated with, we’re using just a few to maximum effect… The future comes back to creating more meaningful experiences with people. Brands are putting more thought into why they’re doing something, and as a result will have more impact.
Matt Murphy
Partner/Group Creative Director, 72andSunny

Is there any conventional wisdom about how technology and creative work together that we should challenge?

Yes, that technology and creativity are in conflict
We need to challenge the idea that technology and creative are in conflict. Creativity unlocks the value of technology and technology enables creative people. Technology and creative together should unlock the value of whatever media distribution they touch.
Mark D’Arcy
Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Facebook Creative Shop

They are not at odds
I don’t think technology and creative are at odds at all. At the end of the day, marketers are trying to make a connection, to get people to buy or feel something. Lots of elements of technology make that easier. Technology at its best makes things delightfully easy and simple to consume, and the best technology just melts away.
Linda Boff
Chief Marketing Officer, GE

They are part of the same thing
Technology and creative are part of the same thing. Data and tech are both a huge part of the creative process. Data lets us get smarter about what to develop and shows us what works and how. When data tells you something you don’t believe or agree with, the new role of creative is to listen.
Erin McPherson
Former Chief Content Officer, Maker Studios

Together, technology and creativity make life better
Technology and creativity can solve real problems. Innovation as a canvas for gimmicks is just an ego trip. We, [advertisers], have to bring some empathy into our innovation and think about how we can use technology to make life more pleasant for people. When technology and creativity come together it feels natural, and we embrace it.
Edu Pou
Chief Creative Officer, The Barbarian Group

But the idea must come before technology
You need an amazing idea and a strong strategy – and once you have that, then you can decide the role technology should play in bringing that to life. You may have an idea that doesn’t rely on any technology…Digital permeates everything we do, but you don’t always have to use technology to create radical experiences.
Matt Murphy
Partner/Group Creative Director, 72andSunny

What is one skill industry practitioners need to improve upon?

Listening
[Marketers] are very good at picking up the bullhorn, but we need to be better at listening to what consumers want. We also need a bit of bravery. We like to draw inspiration from each other and follow the leader. I’d like to see more advertisers zig when others are zagging.
Linda Boff
Chief Marketing Officer, GE

Taking the long view
I’d like to see more of us including CMOs and CEOs to take the long view and not just think about the P&L and pushing messaging. [Marketers] need to think of consumers as a member of a community or tribe that loves a brand.
Erin McPherson
Former Chief Content Officer, Maker Studios

Embracing new ideas
Our industry needs to embrace optimism, playfulness and creativity. The internet today is where TV was in the 50s. Only by playing and reinventing can we uncover best practices and realize the full value of a medium’s potential.
Mark D’Arcy
Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Facebook Creative Shop

Acting from the heart
A passion for the craft. Execution matters, and you have to love what you do… but brands also have a responsibility to contribute to people’s lives with the work we do.
Edu Pou
Chief Creative Officer, The Barbarian Group

How do you balance risk-taking creativity and innovation with driving measurable results?

Define success upfront
Ask what success looks like when figuring out your metrics for success. Are you trying to be bold? Are you trying to affect culture? Clients are risk-averse, but to be bold or change culture, you have to take risk. Having that conversation upfront can make it easier to be calculated when taking risks, and the rewards can be grander.
Matt Murphy
Partner/Group Creative Director, 72andSunny

Bring measurement into the creative process
The most important thing is not to divide creativity and measurement. One supports the other. Analytics need to be embedded in the creative department. If you want to do something amazing that serves a purpose, measurement and results shouldn’t be a burden—it’s part of the job. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong.
Edu Pou
Chief Creative Officer, The Barbarian Group

Measure innovation as a KPI
Innovation needs to be more than just lip service, more than just something you do for an award. Innovation needs to be on the same KPI sheet as all measurable returns. If you don’t prioritize it, it won’t just happen. Innovation needs to be a measurable goal, and we need to assess and reward innovation openly and as part of people’s compensation packages. As an industry we also need to learn to embrace failure—that’s part of innovation.
Erin McPherson
Former Chief Content Officer, Maker Studios

What untapped opportunities should the industry embrace in 2016 and beyond?

Super users
Consumers, especially younger ones, love brands and talk about them openly. Instead of hiring celebrities as spokespeople, brands have an opportunity to listen to who’s already loving their product. There are millions of people already taking pictures of your product―the next step is to find and nurture these super users. These are people who already love your brand and aren’t just promoting it for money―they’re authentic. They produce better ROI and more lasting results, and the people they reach are worth more. Technology can help brands find those micro influencers at scale.
Erin McPherson
Former Chief Content Officer, Maker Studios

Mobile
Mobile is still profoundly underestimated. If you look at the numbers for where we are and where we are going, no matter how fast we think we are moving in mobile, it’s not fast enough. Mobile is the central connection between brands and people. The role it plays in our lives is around the things that matter, like decision-making, experiences, and stories. The next billion people on the internet will arrive via mobile. If you’re not building everything around mobile, somebody else will be―and it may not turn out so great for your company.
Mark D’Arcy
Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Facebook Creative Shop

Personal communications
We have the illusion that advertising is more specific or tailored to audiences, that we know how to talk to people at the right time with the right message. Some of that is true, but we’re still missing the boat. We’re using old templates for new scenarios. We can’t use the same techniques for a billboard or TV ad as we use for more intimate conversations. We need a dramatic change of language to serve specific audiences—and we need to rediscover the language of advertising for different channels. On the other hand, if we use empathy as a driver, the solution will be the right one.
Edu Pou
Chief Creative Officer, The Barbarian Group